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Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

Enhancing an aerothermodynamic evaluation system for planetary atmospheric entry vehicles

The design of planetary atmospheric entry vehicles places substantial emphasis on making accurate predictions of aerodynamic performance and heating environments during the various stages of the entry process, but the costs of testing those items under actual flight conditions are huge. At the same time, recreating the corresponding flight conditions on the ground is an extremely challenging venture. In response to these difficulties, JAXA developed design tools and evaluation/testing technology for the aerothermodynamic design of planetary atmospheric re-entry vehicles. These tools and technologies use numerical analysis technology which bridges the gap between ground-based tests and actual flight conditions and allows users to obtain the same results as they would from flight tests. By systemizing the tools, JAXA has completed an aerothermodynamic evaluation system for planetary atmospheric entry vehicles. This technology has been used to construct a testing environment for the small return capsules and Mars landing probes which are being considered at JAXA. It is now necessary to further enhance the technology by improving accuracy, reliability and usability. The technology will also be used in the testing of free-flying objects and in advanced aerothermodynamic design (decreasing the weight of thermal protection systems, realizing optimal aerothermodynamic design, and predicting catastrophic events in contingencies).

To do so, JAXA will focus its research on:

  1. Enhancing (expanding functionality and scope) aerothermodynamic evaluation systems (software and hardware) which are required to realize future atmospheric entry missions by JAXA.
  2. Supporting the development of missions (small return capsules, Mars landing probes, etc.) which use the systems described in 1.
  3. Using the systems described in 1 to advance research aimed at producing world-leading and world-first academic results.

Through these efforts, JAXA will make progress on solutions in the area.